I didn’t want to upset her more than she was already. She was angry and frustrated and needed an explanation. It wasn’t the first time her paycheck was late, but this was the holiday season.

It was my first Christmas there and an honest mistake. I hadn’t been in charge of her timesheet initially; when it was handed to me, the due date had already passed. I didn’t want to pass judgment or pass blame, but there was also the most important issue: she hadn’t submitted it on time. And this wasn’t the first time.

Now it was New Year’s and she didn’t have any money; she needed someone to blame.

You are part of the problem.

And sometimes it is your fault.

It’s what I say to myself when things don’t work out the way I hope, or when they don’t work out in my favor. I have a good support system. When I get too big for my britches, they let me know. Sometimes it takes years for me to see it clearly, sometimes mere seconds.

When I was in law school there was only one other black person in my section: 2 total out of 76 or so. I’d been used to being a minority so it didn’t faze me much, but for some reason this felt different. It just seemed more significant. Unbalanced.

We had 3 of our 4 classes with the same 76, and for 2 of the 3 the same guy sat next to me. At first it was a nice relief. I’m introverted and it would mean less repetitive chit-chat.

In Crim Law he explained the history of the L.A. riots when some of our classmates inappropriately joked about the elements of the crime.

Both of his parents were special education teachers, and he’d attended an all black high school. He was comfortable around black people, but curious. If I changed my hair, he wanted to touch it. If he didn’t understand something  he’d read on urban dictionary, he wanted me to explain it. For his birthday I got him The Last Dragon, and he was so excited he talked about it all year.

He won the MLK scholarship in law school that January and did a solo dance to Raspberry Beret at the birthday party. I missed it, but everyone had stories to tell.

A group of us went out for Halloween. I wore all black and slapped on a name badge that said “sheep.” I called myself clever, but he said it was the laziest costume he’d ever seen.

We’d all commuted separately to the bar, but split off in groups for round two of the party. I hadn’t noticed that we were partnered up, or noticed the whispers as the two of us walked to the party together.

He came to my birthday party that summer. There was a crowd of church people, some friends from work, and him. When he hugged me goodbye he rested his hands at the small of my back, and I realized (without acknowledging) that we had wanted to be together.

It wasn’t a relationship I could entertain. I was struggling, failing out of law school, and ashamed. I wouldn’t (couldn’t) ask this young, white man for help. I couldn’t find him attractive. I certainly couldn’t date him. I’d never been with anyone before. My first boyfriend couldn’t be, wouldn’t be, white.

You are part of the problem.

Sometimes it’s because you just don’t want to do it. Sometimes it’s because you don’t know how and lack the desire to learn. Sometimes it’s because you’re not sure if the outcome would be in your favor, and you want to be sure. Sometimes it’s because you’re too tired, or too angry, or too hungry (happens to me all the time) to care more.

Sometimes it’s because you’re ashamed of how you feel, and you don’t want to have to explain.

You are part of the problem.

It’s what I tell myself when my bias creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s what I tell myself when I’m not willing to put forth the effort to figure it out: when the rut and the barrel are mine.

You are part of the problem. It’s become my mantra. A reminder that if I can do nothing else or give nothing else, I must at least be willing to consider that this outcome, this mess, this rut, was mine. I am (at least partially) responsible. Sometimes it is your fault.

When have you been part of the problem? When have you gotten in your own way? 


16 thoughts on “You Are Part of the Problem

  1. Great post! To answer your question, I was always apart of the problem in dating. Once a boyfriend told me that he couldn’t date me if I didn’t make at least 80k. At the time I was barely pulling 40k. His comments were foul, but retrospectively I was apart of the problem because I was incredibly insecure about my own financial stability and ability to grow in my career. His comments were salt in an already open wound. In dating I was my own worst problem in my inability to listen vs. drawing conclusions based on what I wanted to conclude and not what was real. Men can be quite transparent when we listen, but listening can be tough. Once we admit that we are apart of the problem, we can finally start to get out of our own way! Great post and great question!


  2. Thanks for your message! Wow, his expectations sound ridiculous. It’s always hard for me to admit that I’m part of the problem when I feel insecure about something. Cheers to growing older and getting wiser? 🙂


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